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Ou-Young v. Stone

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

December 5, 2019

KUANG-BAO P. OU-YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
LAWRENCE E. STONE, Santa Clara County Assessor; JEANETTE TONINI, Senior Assessment Clerk; EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge; and COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, Defendants.

          ORDER REQUIRING THAT KUANG-BAO P. OU-YOUNG OBTAIN LEAVE OF COURT BEFORE FILING ANY COMPLAINT AGAINST FEDERAL JUDGES

          BETH LABSON FREEMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On December 20, 2013, District Judge Edward M. Chen issued an order declaring Plaintiff Kuang-Bao P. Ou-Young to be a vexatious litigant and directing pre-filing screening of any complaint filed by Plaintiff involving certain statutes and parties. See Vexatious Litigant Order, Case No. 13-cv-04442, ECF 40. In the six years following Judge Chen's issuance of the Vexatious Litigant Order, Plaintiff has filed more than two dozen meritless actions in this district, many asserting claims against federal judges based on their rulings.

         Plaintiff also filed the present action in state court, naming District Judge Edward J. Davila as a defendant along with the County of Santa Clara and two County employees. See Notice of Removal Exh. 4 (Complaint), ECF 1-4. Following removal of the action to this district, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause why the action should not be dismissed as to Judge Davila based on judicial immunity, and why the pre-filing screening requirement applicable to Plaintiff should not be expanded to include claims against federal judges. See OSC, ECF 15. Plaintiff timely responded to the Order to Show Cause. See Pl.'s Response to OSC, ECF 22.

         The Court has dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Judge Davila in a separate order. See Dismissal Order, ECF 25. The present order addresses the propriety of issuing an order requiring pre-filing review of Plaintiff's future complaints against federal judges. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that such an order is warranted. The Court therefore ORDERS that Kuang-Bao P. Ou-Young must obtain leave of court before filing any complaint against federal judges.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Judge Chen's Vexatious Litigant Order

         As noted above, Judge Chen issued a Vexatious Litigant Order regarding Plaintiff in 2013. See Vexatious Litigant Order, Case No. 13-cv-04442, ECF 40. In that order, Judge Chen discussed five civil cases that Plaintiff had filed in this district against federal judges, federal agencies and employees, and others, as well as a misconduct complaint that Plaintiff had filed against a federal judge. See Id. Judge Chen concluded that although the number of Plaintiff's filings was not as great as in other vexatious litigant cases, “the patently meritless nature of his filings” warranted issuance of a pre-filing review order. Id. at 13. Notably, Plaintiff persisted in suing for violations of federal criminal statutes despite being advised repeatedly that the statutes do not provide a private right of action. See Id. Judge Chen issued an order that was narrowly tailored to require that “Plaintiff must obtain leave of court before filing any further suits alleging any violations of the federal criminal statutes, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b), 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c), and 18 U.S.C. § 371, and the FTCA, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., involving parties that he named in the current case, or Ou-Young I, Ou-Young II, Ou-Young III, and Ou-Young IV, previously filed in this Court.” Id. at 16-17.

         Plaintiff's Filings Since Judge Chen's Order

         Since the Vexatious Litigant Order issued, Plaintiff has submitted twenty-five complaints that have been subject to pre-filing review. See Case Nos. 14-mc-80017-RMW; 14-mc-80018-RS; 14-mc-80028-JSW;14-mc-80029-JSW; 14-mc-80030-JSW; 14-mc-80174-BLF; 14-mc-80214-EJD; 14-mc-80215-EJD; 14-mc-80306-LHK; 14-mc-80332-BLF; 14-mc-80335-BLF; 14-mc-80342-WHA; 14-mc-80343-WHA; 15-mc-80031-YGR; 15-mc-80033-EJD; 15-mc-80149-BLF; 15-mc-80151-EJD; 15-mc-80172-EJD; 15-mc-80180-VC; 15-mc-80185-VC; 15-mc-80192-EJD; 15-mc-80197-LHK; 15-mc-80235-EJD; 15-mc-80212-BLF; 19-mc-80254-EJD; 19-mc-80255-EJD. As discussed in more detail below, many of those complaints asserted claims against federal judges.

         During that same period, Plaintiff filed multiple motions to intervene, disqualify judges, and vacate orders in criminal and civil actions to which he was not a party. See, e.g., Case Nos. 14-cr-00196-CRB, ECF 344 (motion to intervene in criminal proceeding); 14-cv-05142-LHK, ECF 95 (motion to intervene, to disqualify the assigned judge, to vacate a court order, and for summary judgment); Case No. 17-cv-00574-WHO, ECF 84 (motion to intervene).

         All of the motions to intervene, disqualify, and the like were denied. See Case Nos. 14-cr-00196-CRB, ECF 345 (denying motion to intervene); 14-cv-05142-LHK, ECF 97 (denying motion to intervene, to disqualify the assigned judge, to vacate a court order, and for summary judgment); Case No. 17-cv-00574-WHO, ECF 85 (denying motion to intervene). Plaintiff also was denied leave to file all but two of the complaints listed above, on the basis that they asserted claims involving statutes and parties specified in Judge Chen's Vexatious Litigant Order and were without merit.

         Plaintiff's 2019 Cases

         As to the two most recent complaints screened in 2019, however, leave to file was granted on the basis that the claims asserted therein fell outside the scope of Judge Chen's order. One complaint asserts claims against Ninth Circuit Judges Edward Leavy, Consuelo M. Callahan, and Carlos T. Bea. See Case No. 19-cv-07232-EJD (screened in Case No. 19-mc-80254-EJD). The judge assigned to that case has not yet had occasion to determine whether the complaint states a viable claim. That case is proceeding.

         The second complaint as to which leave to file was granted asserts claims against the County of Santa Clara and County employees. See Case No. 19-cv-07231-BLF (screened in Case No. 19-mc-80255-EJD). That action is proceeding.

         Plaintiff filed a third complaint in this district in 2019 that does not appear to have been flagged for pre-filing review by the Clerk's Office. See Case No. 19-cv-03049-EJD. A civil case was opened based on the complaint, and Plaintiff subsequently filed a first amended complaint. The district court assigned to the case found that Plaintiff's claims against federal district judges, circuit judges, United States Supreme Court justices, and federal officials and employees were without merit and dismissed the case with prejudice. See id.

         Plaintiff's fourth 2019 complaint, which commenced the present action, was filed in state court and removed to this district. See Notice of Removal, ECF 1. The removal complaint was not flagged for screening by the Clerk's Office. The complaint alleges claims against Judge Davila, the County of Santa Clara, and Santa Clara employees. As noted above, Plaintiffs' claims against Judge Davila have been dismissed. See Dismissal Order, ECF 25.

         The United States of America, appearing in this action as amicus curiae, requests that the Court issue an order requiring pre-filing review of all claims against federal judges. See United States' Br. at 6, ECF 6-1. The United States argues that such an order is warranted because Plaintiff has a documented propensity to sue federal judges when he does not like their decisions, and the current Vexatious Litigant Order does not cover Plaintiff's recent suits against federal judges. See Id. Plaintiff argues that expansion of the screening order would deprive him of his Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. See Pl.'s Response to OSC, ECF 22.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “The All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), provides district courts with the inherent power to enter pre-filing orders against vexatious litigants.” Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007). “Restricting access to the courts is, however, a serious matter.” Ringgold-Lockhart v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 761 F.3d 1057, 1061 (9th Cir. 2014). “[T]he right of access to the courts is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, ” and “[p]rofligate use of pre-filing orders could infringe this important right.” Id. at 1061-62 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, “pre-filing orders should rarely be filed, ” and only when certain requirements are met. De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 1990).

         “Nevertheless, ‘[f]lagrant abuse of the judicial process cannot be tolerated because it enables one person to preempt the use of judicial time that properly could be used to consider the meritorious claims of other litigants.'” Molski, 500 F.3d at 1057 (quoting De Long, 912 F.2d at 1148). A district court therefore has discretion ...


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